Francophone loves helping people at work and in the community

Michelle Couture dreams about being able to make a difference in the community and help people see the importance of equity and inclusiveness.

Couture, 46, is the president of Club Richelieu – Les Perles du Nord. She also works as a French-language services co-ordinator at Ontario Health North.

She loves helping people at work and in the community because if you can help others, “why not?” she says.

At work, when people are coming in for appointments, she enjoys being “a smiling face for them” and making somebody feel good for a moment.

“I always thought it was important. There’s nothing worse than going to a desk and that person serving you is miserable. You just want to be able to provide that sunshine for two minutes if you can,” Couture says. “When I started working there, I thought this is where I belong.”

With the work in the community, she gets to learn what the local needs are and help people.

Couture has been working in healthcare for 20 years. Her experience includes working for Bayshore Home Health, Timmins and District Hospital and North East Local Health Integration Network.

Originally, she studied early childhood education. Being able to help people is what attracted her to switch fields, and she took online courses educating herself on healthcare.

Couture was born in Timmins and she grew up bilingual.

“It’s a great advantage to be bilingual. It just opens your communication with people especially at my workplace,” she says.

Her family moved around a lot and she lived for some time in Gogama. Since it’s a small community, the family didn’t participate in big francophone celebrations but Couture attended Centre Culturel La Ronde’s Bonhomme Carnaval in Timmins and remembers making toffees on Saint Catherine’s Day, which is marked Nov. 25.

“We did celebrate the little things that we could because we didn’t have access to really big events,” she says. “We did what we could. In Gogama, it was francophone community as well.”

As a francophone, getting involved with the Richelieu Club helped her brush up on her French language skills. Having worked in the anglophone work world, she found she’s lost a lot of French.

“When I joined this group and this position, it really brought it back,” she says. “It’s like riding a bike. You never really lose it, it’s just to get back to it.”

Couture joined the club as a member last year after hearing about it through her colleagues at work. She was voted in as a secretary before getting elected as a president this year.

When Couture got the position, she recalls feeling nervous as it’s a big responsibility. She’s enjoying being involved and getting to know the community.

“You want to make sure you fulfil the needs but it’s been great. I’m happy to have this experience. It’s good, it’s fun,” she says. “And the members are great. They help you if you have questions. That’s a very good group of people.”

With 19 members, the organization is always looking for new members.

Recently, as part of the Adopting Schools project, the non-profit ‘adopted’ two schools, École catholique St. Jude and École catholique St-Dominique. Each school received $1,000 with raised funds going to buy new winter clothes such as snowsuits, boots, mittens and toques.

The club is also helping two local families in need for Christmas by buying and delivering them the items they need.

Couture’s vision for the club would be to see it going strong. It’s hard to find French-speaking people who are interested in joining, she says.

“We would like to keep it strong and have people interested in joining. We do great work,” she says.

As a mother of three children, Couture made sure they grew up speaking French. She says it was important for her and she would support them whenever they engaged in francophone-related activities at school.

“I made sure they were French,” Couture says adding she gets to teach French to her granddaughter now. “It’s something I want to pass on with generation because it’s interesting to see how many francophones we actually have. Even the new people coming in, a lot of them are francophones, which is interesting.”

Couture says there’s a lot of work to advance and show the importance of the French language.

“I find it’s a good challenge, an interesting challenge to share that with people,” she adds.

Couture wanted to give her children an opportunity to grow in a bigger centre, so she moved back to Timmins from Gogama about 17 years ago.

With her northern roots, she likes engaging in outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, kayaking and being out in nature.

“I do like Timmins, it’s not overly populated,“ she says. “I thought it was important to raise the children here.”

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